The flugelhorn is part of the brass family of instruments. These musical instruments were traditionally made from and continue to be mostly made from the metal brass. The name is thought to come from the German word “wing” which makes the name flugelhorn “wing horn”. The flugelhorn is closely related to the trumpet and cornet. The flugelhorn is in the same B-flat key as the trumpet and cornet. The flugelhorn has 3 piston type valves just like the trumpet and cornet. When you press one of the valves down, the air that you blow into its instrument is routed to a longer pipe and this makes the note lower in pitch. The cornet has become less popular over time as it is harder to control throughout the upper range of the instrument.
What Does A Flugelhorn Sound Like?
The flugelhorn has a warmer and fatter sound than a trumpet. The main reasons for this are the shape of the bell, the depth of the flugelhorn mouthpiece, and to some degree the types of brass used in its construction. As you can see below, the trumpet has a narrow bell that opens quickly at the end. This results in a brighter and more penetrating sound than the flugelhorn. The flugelhorns bell opens sooner and broader than the trumpet giving it a darker, richer sound. Flugelhorn mouthpieces are shorter than trumpet mouthpieces and typically played with a deeper cup. Trumpet players look for flugelhorn mouthpieces with similar rim shapes and rim diameters. See our Trumpet Mouthpiece Guide for these terms if you’d like. Many flugelhorns use gold brass bells which add additional warmth to the timbre.
What is the Difference Between a Flugelhorn verses a Trumpet?
The first difference you’ll notice between a flugelhorn verses a trumpet is the shape. The trumpet is narrower top to bottom and longer. A flugelhorn has a fatter, wider bell. A flugelhorn has the mouthpiece tube or leadpipe entering the valve cluster in the first valve and the bell exits from the valve cluster from the third valve. The opposite arrangement is true for the trumpet. Trumpets are lighter than flugelhorns as there is less metal used in the bell. How you hold a trumpet is different than a flugelhorn because of the shape differences. For more information on how to hold a flugelhorn as compared to a trumpet, see our How to Hold and Play a Trumpet guide
Who Played The Flugelhorn Solo?
Probably the most recognizable flugelhorn soloist is Chuck Mangione. His Grammy nominated albums and songs were highly popularized in the 1970s. His song “Chase The Clouds Away” was used in the 1976 Olympic games as background music during the worldwide television broadcasts. He performed his song “Give It All You Got” at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid New York. This melody was the theme song throughout the worldwide broadcasts. He played it on stage for the whole world to see at the closing ceremonies. The song that most every trumpet and jazz musician know by the flowing notes is Chuck Mangione “Feels So Good”, which was also the title of his most popular album released in 1977. Both the “Feels So Good” single and album were at the top of the music charts during this time. The Chuck Mangione “Feels So Good” song has been received the honor of being called the most recognized melody since the Beatles “Michelle”. Recently, “Feels So Good” has been honored by “Smooth Jazz” radio stations throughout the U.S. as their number one song. Chuck Mangione is also known for his frequent appearance on tv comedy “King of The Hill” where he is the fictitious Mega-Lo—Mart spokesman. He plays his flugelhorn sporting his signature felt hat.
Is Flugelhorn easier than Trumpet?
Most flugelhorn players started as trumpet players. What most don’t realize is that Chuck Mangione started out as a trumpet player. He started playing jazz with his brother Gap, in a jazz band called “The Jazz Brothers”. Chuck in those early years was a disciple of the famous Dizzy Gillespie trumpet player. If you stretched out a trumpet and a flugelhorn you will find they are the same length. One key difference is that the bore or size of the tubing of most flugelhorns is slightly smaller than a trumpet at 0.415 inches. While there are trumpet bore size flugelhorns with bores of 0.459 and up, those are typically specialty or signature models. The most common trumpet bore sizes is the medium-large of 0.459 inches. That said, most manufacturers make trumpets in various bore sizes to fit different types of players. The smaller bore size makes the flugelhorn a bit easier to play for beginner players. The trumpet is also known for the higher register playing known as “screaming”. Playing the upper register on the trumpet well takes a well-developed embouchure, technique, and airstream. The flugelhorn is known for its warm, jazz melodies which focus more on your creative skills. If you are a “come back” player, starting back with a flugelhorn lets you focus on your sound, technique, and creativity.
A trumpet mouthpiece and a flugelhorn mouthpiece are different beyond the depth and shape of the cup. The biggest difference is that trumpet mouthpieces from every manufacturer will fit most any trumpet. No so for flugelhorn mouthpieces. The shank or taper is the narrow part of the tubing that is inserted into the flugelhorn’s receiver. They are different and will fit different flugelhorns. Most flugelhorn mouthpiece manufacturers will specify what shank type each mouthpiece will fit.
The three main types of flugelhorn mouthpiece tapers are:
Couesnon (No Taper): These will fit flugelhorns from: French Besson, Couesnon, Flip Oakes, Kanstul, and Miraphone.
Bach (Small Morse Taper): These will fit flugelhorns from: B & S, Bach, R, S, Berkeley, Besson, Courtois, Eclipse, F. E. Olds, Holton, LeBlanc, James , Trevor, Kanstul, Miraphone , Phaeton, Reynolds, Schilke, Selmer, Shiller, Taylor, Van Laar
Standard (Large Morse Taper): These will fit flugelhorns from: Adams, Benge, Blessing, Callet, Conn, Eclipse, Gerd Dowids, Getzen, Josef Lidl, Kanstul, King, Lawler, Miraphone , Orlando Wind Instruments, Stomvi, Thomas Inderbinen , Weril, Yamaha,
Identify your flugelhorn manufacturer and that will specify what taper you need for your mouthpiece. The two main things to consider are the rim type and cup. Using your trumpet mouthpiece as a guide will help you find a flugelhorn mouthpiece that will let you go between the two instruments easily.
The Best Flugelhorn Mouthpiece?
Our top picks are based on years of experience, talking with other players, and what mouthpieces we are currently playing on our trumpets. A flugelhorn mouthpiece is as personal a choice as your trumpet mouthpiece so they same things apply. Feel, range, and timbre are all affected by the depth of the cup which is much deeper than you are used to playing on your trumpet. The “rules of thumb” for flugelhorn mouthpiece selection are:
- Rim Diameter. Get as close to the same rim diameter as your trumpet mouthpiece. Your lips will notice a big difference and it’ll feel odd. You can get used to anything, but if you like your trumpet mouthpiece, this is the first thing to try to match.
- Rim Width. Get as close to the same rim width and shape as your trumpet mouthpiece. The “bite” from the rim will definitely be noticeable if there is a lot of difference here.
- Shank. As noted above, if it doesn’t fit your flugelhorns receiver its not a good “fit”. Yes, adapters could solve the problem, but they introduce more places for the sound wave coming from the mouthpiece to be disturbed, altering your sound.
- Cup. Cups depth and size are really to support the timbre you are trying to produce with your flugelhorn. Richer, warmer, deeper for the regular deep cups or a more shallow cup for ease of transition from a lead trumpet mouthpiece. The upper register on a flugelhorn isn’t much above high C. The warmth of a flugelhorn can be built upon with a deeper cup.
Best Flugelhorn Mouthpiece – Large Taper
Like our top pick for Lead trumpet playing, the Denis Wick 5BFL is a great choice. It’s got a Medium deep cup in Denis Wick terms which means it isn’t as deep as their regular ones that have have the “FL” designation at the end. The “FL” series have “Very Deep Cups” and deliver a much warmer sound. The 5BFL gives you more support with the shallower cup for the upper register playing for your Jazz quartet and a bit brighter timbre. The cup diameter is 16.0 millimeters which is the same as the Denis Wick 5E lead trumpet mouthpiece. The wide rim of 5.3 millimeters will support lead flugelhorn playing with increased endurance and comfort. This will make going back and forth as easy as possible. NOTE: This flugelhorn has a “Large” shank which is also called “Regular”. See above to ensure it will fit your flugelhorn.
If you are playing the Yamaha YAC Shrew Lead Trumpet mouthpiece, thankfully Yamaha makes the same mouthpiece for your Flugelhorn. The YAC Shrew Flugelhorn mouthpiece is also designed by and for the legendary Bobby Shrew. It has the same Rim diameter of 16.54 millimeters, similar “semi-thick” rim width, similar “semi-round” rim contour, and a “standard cup” which will make the cross over between the two easy.
Best Flugelhorn Mouthpiece – Small Taper
The Vincent Bach 1 1/2 C Flugelhorn mouthpiece is the top pick of many players. The Rim Diameter of 17.0 millimeters is similar to many lead trumpet mouthpieces. It has a Medium deep cup which produces a great balance of resistance and freedom. It produces a warm, velvety texture.
What is The Best Flugelhorn?
Despite it’s beautiful sound, the flugelhorn is not as popular of an instrument as the trumpet. As such, the top manufacturers only make a few models. If you look at a few of the current top professional trumpet players, you’d find some variety in the manufacturer and model. Wayne Bergeron who has recorded 400 plus television and movie soundtracks including Disney films such as the Incredibles, plays a Yamaha flugelhorn, model YTR-8315G. Louis Dowdeswell, an Englishman who studied under Wayne Bergeron (and others) has a YouTube channel with over 8 Million views plays a Yamaha flugelhorn, model YTR-6310Z. Most horn players on the different forums agree the two main musical instrument manufacturers make great flugelhorns are Vincent Bach and Yamaha. There are many smaller manufacturers with incredible flugelhorns such as Kanstul, and Courtois (which has been making them for over 200 years). For more background on Bach and Yamaha, see the write up in the Best Professional Trumpet.
Yamaha has a loyal following as they have produced excellent flugelhorns for decades. The most popular model is the YFH-631. All the Yamaha flugelhorns below feature Monel, hand lapped pistons and adjustable receivers for your mouthpiece for tuning. Another modern improvement is having spit valves or water keys on the first slide, third slide, and at the beginning of the bell.
What do the letters mean?
- The “Y” means “Yamaha”.
- The “FH” means flugelhorn.
- The “6” is the Grade, in this case “Professional”.
- The “3” means it’s a b-flat key.
- The “1” means it has a medium bore of 0.445 inches.
Its main feature is the red brass bell which gave it a buttery, warm sound.
They produced the YFH-631 from 1972 to 1977. The one that most professionals love is the YFH-631GS which has the coveted gold brass bell, silver plated and had third valve trigger (some models also included a 1st valve trigger). It started production in 2001 and continues through today. The yellow brass bell version, the YFH-731 was produced from 1972 to 1985.
The YFH-631GS comes in an epoxy lacquer finish. It’s beautiful with the contrasting nickel plated adjustable receiver and leadpipe, valve caps, and 1st/3rd slides. The valve cluster is yellow brass. The YFH-631GS is silver plated all over. This professional flugelhorn is at home in all settings, a jazz quartet, orchestra, and rock band. The larger bore projects well with warmth and smoothness.
Yamaha YFH-8310 series Professional Flugelhorns
The other Yamaha flugelhorns that are beloved are the YFH-8310 series which started production in 1998 and continues today. The “8” means it’s an “Artist-Custom” Grade model. The latest generation is the YFH-8315G has the coveted gold brass bell. It was co-designed by Wayne Bergeron and is his current flugelhorn. It has the more common standard bore size of 0.413 inches. The third valve trigger has a new, longer trigger which fits more hand sizes. It comes in both an epoxy lacquer which shows off the beautiful gold brass bell. The rest of the horn has a yellow brass finish with just a touch of nickel plating on the adjustable receiver of the leadpipe. The YFH-8315GS is the silver-plated version. This flugelhorn has the best of all worlds with a redesigned leadpipe for control in the upper register and the warmth of the gold brass bell for delicate passages.
Best Flugelhorn – Lead Flugelhorn Playing
Yamaha YFH-8310Z Professional Flugelhorns
The custom version of the YFH-8310 series is the YFH-8310Z. This too is an “Artist-Custom” Grade model inspired by Bobby Shew. This model is similar to the FYH-8315G with a bore size of 0.413 inches and third valve trigger. The difference is in the redesigned gold brass leadpipe and the yellow brass bell. The upper register is excellent as is the intonation. The projection of the bell and slotting is perfectly at home in a jazz band. It too comes in the epoxy lacquer or silver-plated finishes.
Vincent Bach Flugelhorn History
The Vincent Bach company created their first flugelhorn in 1932, almost 90 years ago. Back then, their flugelhorns came in three different keys. Today, they offer only b-flat models, the Bach Stradivarius flugelhorn model 183 and a mid-range model, the Aristocrat FH600 flugelhorn. Both are US made in Elkhart, Indiana. The Bach Stradivarius 183 is considered a “small bore” flugelhorn as it’s bore is 0.401 inches. This makes it easy to play while the one-piece, hand hammered yellow brass bell projects well. There are spit valves or keys on the first slide, third slide, and at the beginning of the bell which makes playing cleanly much easier. The hand lapped Monel valves are smooth as the Bach Stradivarius trumpets.
Vincent Bach Stradivarius Professional Flugelhorn Model 183
This professional flugelhorn has the same excellent design quality and hand built standard of excellence that the Bach Stradivarius trumpets do. The one-piece hand-hammered yellow brass bell projects a warm, deep timbre. The hand-lapped Monel valves perform like the Bach Stradivarius trumpets. This flugelhorn has the same features you’d expect for a professional quality horn. It has a third valve trigger, three lever spit valves, and adjustable mouthpiece receiver. The lacquer model is similar to the Stradivarius trumpet as the first and third slides have nickel plated finished tubes with the rest of the horn yellow brass. The 183 also comes in a silver-plated finish (183S).
Best Flugelhorn – Come Back Player
Best Flugelhorn – Value Flugelhorn
Vincent Bach Aristocrat Flugelhorn Model FH600
The Aristocrat FH600 flugelhorn has a bore size of 0.434 inches for ease of playing. It is highly responsive with hand lapped Monel valves and a two-piece bell. The tubing from the valve cluster to the bell is gold brass for warmth and protection against corrosion. The yellow brass bell projects a solid, warm timbre. It has an adjustable leadpipe and a third valve trigger. The lacquer finished version has nickel plating on the first and third valve slides.